Best-Case Scenario for the Miami Dolphins in 2012
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A 19-0 record is the best-case scenario for every NFL team. But it's not a very realistic scenario for any team.
While the minds of NFL fans hibernate throughout the offseason and have dreams of Super Bowl appearances for their team, 30 fanbases will be disappointed come February 3, 2013.
With the Miami Dolphins now officially on HBO's Hard Knocks, a best-case scenario for them might be a drama-free offseason and training camp, but in the regular season, the best-case scenario for the Dolphins would be a record above .500.
While they may prove themselves to be a playoff team during the course of the season, they just don't look like one at present.
Their defense looked playoff worthy in 2011, ranking sixth in scoring. That performance only got better down the stretch as the Dolphins gave up 17 or fewer points in five of their last nine games. All five were wins.
They have the best linebacking corps in the division, and the leadership and experience of Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby will be big as the team transitions to a hybrid style of defense under new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The Dolphins used a lot of two- and three-man fronts in 2011, whereas the Bengals (Coyle's old team) utilized almost exclusively four-man fronts.
It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins line up in 2012, but Cameron Wake should continue to be one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL. An offensive gameplan against the Dolphins starts with figuring out how to slow down Wake, and against a line that includes Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick, offensive lines could have their hands full.
If defensive end Olivier Vernon can provide a presence opposite Wake, this could be a much better defensive line than is currently being predicted.
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One thing that's impossible to predict, though, is the performance of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the production the Dolphins will get at the quarterback position regardless of their starter. Is Tannehill the guy this year, or will it take some time? Can David Garrard seamlessly transition back to an NFL football field after a year away? Can Matt Moore win the starting job in camp and play consistently for a full 16-game season?
Whoever is throwing the ball, though, they'll be doing it without a top-flight No. 1 receiver. While that doesn't mean they don't have talent at the position—and they're not looking for a true No. 1 anyway—they certainly do have some schematic fits at the position. Now, it's a matter of someone stepping forward, and someone else getting them the ball.
Despite the limited roster improvements, there is reason for hope. Take, for example, their soft schedule. They start with a difficult road game against the Texans, but the Raiders, Jets, Cardinals, Bengals and Rams all present winnable matchups for Miami. After the bye week, it's the Jets, Colts and Titans, three more games that could be wins.
Now, that's not to imply they will all be wins, but there's reason for hope if only based on the schedule.
New regimes have brought success to down-in-the-dumps franchises in the past, and while the Dolphins may experience that kind of a turnaround, it's tough to put your eggs in that basket. In a best-case scenario, though, anything can happen.
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